Gianforte changes COVID-19 priorities for vaccine distribution

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

HELENA – Gov. Greg Gianforte announced changes to how his administration will handle the COVID-19 pandemic Jan. 5.

Gianforte indicated his priorities are protecting the most vulnerable, promoting incentives and personal responsibility over mandates, and making directives clear and easier to understand.

Gianforte re-emphasized that confronting the virus is his "top priority as governor," announcing two changes in COVID-19 policy.

Gianforte is revising the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan to prioritize getting the vaccine to the most vulnerable. The revised vaccine distribution plan puts Montanans 70 years of age and older, Montanans 16 to 69 years of age that have an underlying severe medical condition, and Native Americans next in line for the vaccine, after frontline health care workers.

"We need to provide the vaccine to those that want it. We cannot have vaccines sitting on a shelf. That’s why I have tasked DPHHS and General (Matt) Quinn to begin the process of revising the vaccine distribution plan to prioritize the most vulnerable," he said.

“I have directed the team to make this change effective immediately,” Gianforte added.

Gianforte indicated conditions for changing the statewide mask mandate

"After we have increased vaccine distribution and after I have legislation on my desk that protects businesses, schools, places of worship and nonprofit organizations that follow guidelines from lawsuits, then we will rescind the current statewide mask mandate," he said.

Gianforte emphasized the state needs to protect businesses and schools from lawsuits if they make a good faith effort to protect individuals from the spread of coronavirus and follow clear public health guidelines.

 "To combat the virus, I believe providing incentives and promoting personal responsibility are more effective than imposing impractical mandates," he said.